In the late twentieth century, the field of biotechnology and genetic engineering has positioned itself to become one of the great technological revolutions of human history. Yet, things changed when Herber Boyer, a biochemist at the University of California, founded the company Genentech in 1976 to exploit the commercial potential of his research. Since then the field has exploded into a global amalgam of private research firms developing frivolous, profit-hungry products, such as square trees tailor-made for lumber, without any sort of government regulation.
The appearance of a company like International Genetic Technologies, then should come as no surprise. InGen, as the company is informally known, apparently was the instigator of some sort of "incident," and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1989. The proceedings drew little publicity, but certain parties involved were amenable to discussing the events that transpired on a remote island off the shores of Costa Rica...
Roberta "Bobbie" Carter, a doctor working in a medical center in Bahia Anasco, Costa Rica, is on duty one stormy night with her paramedic, Manuel. An "InGen Construction" helicopter lands nearby and a red-haired man named Ed Regis brings in a man who he claims was injured in a construction accident. Bobbie suggests Regis bring the patient, a young man around eighteen years old, to San José, the nearby capital city where better facilities are available. Regis resists, claiming the helicopter cannot make it any further in the bad weather.
Bobbie looks at the boy's injuries, tear-like lacerations across his torso and thigh, and is skeptical they were really caused by construction equipment. She asks Regis to leave and takes a few photographs of the injuries, then the boy wakes up whispering, "Lo sa raptor." Manuel is obviously distressed by the slippery, foul-smelling foam they have found on the boy's cuts and by the boy's eerie "raptor" statement. Nonetheless, Manuel claims he does not know what the phrase means.
As the boy continues to whisper, Manuel states that the boy has been bitten by one of the raptors or "hupia"—ghosts who, according to a local superstition, live in the islands offshore and kidnap children. The boy suddenly sits up, vomits blood and falls to the floor, convulsing. He is dead. Curious about the word "raptor," Bobbie looks it up in a Spanish dictionary and finds that it means "abductor." She also looks it up in an English dictionary, which says that it means "bird of prey."
Mike Bowman is on vacation in Costa Rica with his wife, Ellen, and their daughter, Tina. The family drives a Land Rover through Cabo Blanco Biological Reserve in search of a deserted beach. When they get to the beach, Ellen is worried about Tina encountering snakes, but Mike convinces his wife not to worry. Tina runs off to search for a three-toed sloth. While exploring, Tina spots lots of three-toed bird tracks and hears chirping sounds. Instead of a bird, however, a small a green and brown-striped lizard emerges from the jungle. It stands on its hind legs, bobs its head like a chicken, and chirps. Tina notices it has three toes and makes tracks like those she saw in the sand. Just as the lizard begins to attack Tina, the perspective shifts back to Mike and Ellen down the beach, who are wondering where Tina is until they hear her screams.
At the hospital in Puntarenas, Dr. Cruz thinks Tina will be alright. Mike recalls that when he found Tina, her left arm had been covered in thumbprint- sized bites and a sticky, saliva-like foam. As Mike and Dr. Cruz look at the picture Tina has drawn of the lizard that bit her, the doctor admits that he is not an expert on lizards and has thus requested the help of a Dr. Guitierrez from across the bay.
When Dr. Guitierrez, an American, shows up, he feels confident that the lizard that bit Tina was a Basiliscus amoratus, although he claims that a few of the details in Tina's picture, like the elongated neck and three toes, seem inaccurate. On her way out of the hospital, Tina makes some keen observations concerning Dr. Cruz's change of clothing. Cruz then asks the girl if she is certain that the lizard had three toes, and she replies that she is. Seemingly convinced of the girl's clever memory, Cruz relates his encounter with Tina to Dr. Guitierrez, who is no longer sure that Tina was bitten by a basilisk lizard.
Guitierrez is on the beach of Cabo Blanco, near the place where the lizards attacked Tina. He thinks about the recent reports of lizards attacking local babies and muses that basilisk lizards are not normally violent. He concludes that perhaps deforestation has driven a previously unknown species of lizard out of a more remote part of the jungle. As Guitierrez is leaving the beach, he notices a howler monkey eating a green and brown-striped lizard. He retrieves the carcass and concludes that he will send it to Dr. Simpson at Columbia University, a leading world authority on lizard taxonomy.
Dr. Simpson is in Borneo on field research, so the carcass is sent to Dr. Richard Stone, head of the Tropical Diseases Laboratory at Columbia. He does some analysis of the sample, concluding that there is no risk of viral or bacterial infection from the lizard. He sends a fax to Costa Rica that puts Guitierrez at ease. Meanwhile, a midwife at Bobbie's clinic returns to a bassinet in the clinic one night to find three lizards eating the baby that is lying inside.
Not wanting to get in trouble for neglecting the baby, the midwife reports the infant's cause of death as SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome. The lab that analyzed the saliva from Tina's bite wounds has discovered a primitive neurotoxin in it that is related to cobra venom. At Columbia, a technician named Alice Levin notices Tina's drawing and refers to it as a "dinosaur." Dr. Stone corrects her, stating that it is a lizard. Levin argues with Stone, claiming that she should know, because her kids are obsessed with dinosaurs. She suggests sending the lizard to the Museum of Natural History, but Stone wants to wait for Dr. Simpson.
Crichton employs two literary techniques—dramatic irony and foreshadowing—to establish the beginning of Jurassic Park as a quickly unfolding mystery. Almost immediately, Bobbie is suspicious of the nature of the InGen Construction worker's injuries, which foreshadows InGen as a source of suspicious activity. Later, when the foamy saliva found on the worker's injuries also appears on Tina after her lizard attack, it is clearly implied that the worker was also bitten, rather than involved in a construction accident.
As its operations are located on an island about a hundred miles off Costa Rica, InGen is also associated with the "hupia" spirits that are purported to dwell on offshore islands and kidnap children. The injured construction worker claims that a "hupia" was responsible for his injuries. These hupia are also the first significant symbols in the book: after Tina is attacked, Dr. Guitierrez's research indicates that several babies around Costa Rica have similarly been attacked recently. Considering these events along with the injured InGen worker, we infer that the hupia are closely tied to InGen and lizards.
Of course, as Crichton has already allowed us to follow the perspectives of several different characters in several different settings, we have privileged information at this stage of the novel. Dr. Guitierrez does not know about the InGen worker's accident, and thus has no way of knowing about the saliva on the InGen worker's wounds. Crichton employs this sort of dramatic irony to give the story an eerie, something-is-awry feeling that we vaguely feel has something to do with whatever InGen is doing on the island off Costa Rica.
Crichton also uses this dramatic irony to take a jab at the scientific community. In the introduction, he discusses how, over the last several decades, the scientific community has been increasingly divided by commercial interests. Even academic scientists sway with the business world these days, a trend that he claims has debilitated the entire scientific community. Throughout this section, Crichton takes care to point out the inefficiency of the scientific organizations that are working in various capacities to investigate the situation in Costa Rica. Dr. Guitierrez ignores Tina's insistence that the lizard has three toes and proceeds to identify the lizard as a basilisk, which halts proper analysis of the saliva from her wounds. Instead, the saliva sample is sent to a different lab in San José. Meanwhile, though the lizard carcass Guitierrez sends to Dr. Simpson at Columbia is never properly identified because Simpson is in Borneo, a fax sent to Guitierrez misleads him into believing that his identification of the lizard as a basilisk is correct. Finally, the lab technicians in San José notice unusual aspects of Tina's lizard saliva sample that link it to cobra venom, but then fail to note a genetic marker they have discovered. Because the marker is not normally found in wild animals, they dismiss it as a lab contaminant. Crichton presents all of this data as dots the scientists fail to connect, which furthers our suspicion that everything, particularly the genetic engineering marker, is somehow related to InGen.
Most of the foreshadowing here revolves around the idea that dinosaurs are related to birds, an idea that Crichton will explore at length throughout the novel. At this point, the concept is merely hinted at: the injured InGen worker used the word "raptor" which Manuel associates with "hupia." Bobbie looks the word up in two dictionaries, finding the definitions "abductor" and "bird of prey." Tina states that the lizard tracks looked like bird tracks and says the lizard chirped and bobbed its head like a chicken, furthering this connection between lizards and birds that hints at dinosaurs, the common ancestor of these two modern-day animal types.